Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pay

The request is simple. For years people agreed to pay an average of $20 per CD for music. We've always known this was an outrageous price for a medium which costs about 7 cents to produce. In the latter part of the 90's and into the mid-00's, in great part to the Napster controversy, consumers became aware of the cost-breakdown of purchasing a CD. In short, a vast part of that fee pays the record companies. They provide a budget for their artists, who then use the budget to acquire studio time, equipment, supporting band members, etc. They have provided a service for many decades and have, unquestionably, provided a means for thousands of artists - good and bad - to explore, create, distribute their work. Without these companies it would have been literally impossible for contemporary music to bloom. We would be stuck with government-sponsored artists (Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, etc), or the work of those artists rich enough to have professionally produced, recorded, and distributed their songs.

It wasn't the invention of the computer, or of the internet, or even file-sharing websites that instigated the rapid, drastic changes the last few years have seen. It was music. Human beings love music, and they will do anything to get it. It was the popularity of music that drew programmers to create file-sharing networks, and it was the popularity of music which in turn increased the popularity of file-sharing networks. Due to The Asshole Lars Ulrich being a hypocritical jackass, the greatest file sharing website (Napster) was shut down (or rather, converted to a pay-to-download site) and those sites which immediately popped up in it's wake lacked Napster's monopoly, which made it harder to find the rare songs that people downloaded to begin with (obviously people don't care about Britney Spears songs, as they were easily acquired - Napster truly was a goldmine for music lovers who had NO possibly way of finding albums and songs which had fallen out of production).

However, a seemingly happy medium has arisen. Direct distribution. The popularity of social networking sites (with their wonderful music player options, which allow artists of all prominence upload their music onto their pages) created a second-wave surge of file-sharing. By uploading their work onto these pages, musicians from all walks of life can garner support and fans by simply doing what the radio has always done - allow consumers to listen to the music for free. By getting out their name, artists can then market themselves: tickets to concerts, t-shirts, cds, even pay-to-download mp3s. Although any tech-savvy individual can simply steal these songs by recording them through various software programs (or even with a USB cable), this has been the case as long as radios have existed: even the most basic radio (including portable devices) comes with a record function. There is absolutely no difference between recording songs off the radio and downloading mp3s onto your computer. NO difference at all! I have no idea why the record labels suddenly got scared that they were losing money with the popularity of internet file-sharing. According to my brother, a fan of Metallica, mentioned that even The Asshole Lars Ulrich has once given an interview in which he stated that he spent all night transferring his favorite songs from vinyl to cassette. HYPOCRISY!

I'm getting off topic here......

Radiohead released their most recent album, In Rainbows, last year with a pick-your-price format which allowed fans to essentially donate what they felt was a fair amount of money in exchange for the album. Trent Reznor similarly released his Ghosts as well as Saul Williams The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy/Tardust . Initially disappointed with the response (or lack of one) to Niggy Tardust, Trent Reznor released his next album The Slip without any option for payment. He simply announced one day (with no previous marketing that I am aware of) that he had finished another album and was posting it online (in multiple formats) for everyone to download (and remix). Having looked back on his numbers, however, Trent saw that, while he was disappointed in the amount of money the sales (or, again, the lack of them) for Niggy Tardust brought in, he was very pleased with the number of albums purchased - many more than Saul William's previous album. The conclusion: SUCCESS! Publicity is where the money is at!

Thenewno2 is working on a similar level. They have uploaded many of their songs to their Myspace page, pay homage to their fans by dedicating an entire album in their photos for fanart, and in what will undoubtedly be one of the most brilliant moves of their musical careers, Dhani Harrison and Oliver Hecks decided to play a series of FREE shows in Los Angeles, every Tuesday at 9 pm (at the Key Club, for anyone who is interested). They are reinforcing this decision by streaming the show live online. (Nine Inch Nails has a Youtube account, which features both fan videos (imagery over the tracks from Ghosts), messages, and rehearsal footage, but they have yet to show an entire concert live! Perhaps it's something Trent should think about!!)

So what does this show? What does this MEAN?!

It means that fans are happy. Fans want to support artists who don't manipulate them, take them for granted, and rip them off. It means fans will pay.

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